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8:15 PM Tue, Sept. 25th

Courthouse Lighting increasingly popular among the locals

The Daily Courier/Les Stukenberg
Students from around the tri-city area sing Christmas songs on the Yavapai County Courthouse steps in front of the crowd of thousands during the annual lighting ceremony.

The Daily Courier/Les Stukenberg Students from around the tri-city area sing Christmas songs on the Yavapai County Courthouse steps in front of the crowd of thousands during the annual lighting ceremony.

PRESCOTT - A longstanding tradition since 1954, the annual Courthouse Lighting remains one of the largest, most attractive draws to the downtown area during the holiday season.

The City of Prescott will illuminate the courthouse plaza at 6 p.m. Saturday.

However, festivities will begin before the lighting, at 5 p.m., with singing from a variety of carolers.

Harold Viehweg, the Prescott Chamber of Commerce's finance director and staff coordinator for the lighting, said the event will draw a "mammoth crowd" with an estimated 10,000 people.

By the time the program starts, they will have closed downtown Gurley Street for crowds of people spilling out onto the street and the sidewalks in front of the businesses to watch the lighting.

"Everything's in place, except the stage and the sound system, which won't be done until that day," Viehweg said earlier this week.

Former State Sen. Ken Bennett of Prescott will narrate the event, which essentially will mirror the look and feel of the 2006 lighting. Bennett once again will retell the story of the first Christmas, culminating in the illumination of the courthouse and surrounding plaza.

As they have in the past, grade school and high school choirs from around the tri-city area will sing on the plaza.

At 4:45 p.m., the Salvation Army band will kick off the festivities. From 5:15 to 5:30 p.m., an all-female quartet Worth Waiting 4 will sing, followed by the Prescott High School show choir from 5:30 to 5:45 p.m.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Dave Maurer said crews have hung lights on 30 of the plaza's 50 good trees, which is five more trees than this past year, in addition to the courthouse's lights.

"We're just trying to build each year and, hopefully some day, some year, have 'most every tree lit," he said.

Christmas Light Decorators from Mesa strung the lights on the courthouse and trees. Prescott-based A&B Sign Company helped erect some of the decorative candles and wreaths on the courthouse's exterior.

Doug Popham, president of Christmas Light Decorators, said his company put up a combined 200,000 LED, or light-emitting diode, lights on the plaza over the past three weeks.

"Last year we were using about 350 amps of power in the area here," he said. "Now we're down to under 50 amps for the entire display. More lights, less power."

All of the large trees on the outside section of the plaza feature amber-colored lights, except the multi-colored Statehood Tree. Ornaments on the courthouse building include 12-foot-high angels, 12- to 14-foot poinsettias, six 14-foot Christmas trees on the east side and the traditional copper candles on the west side.

"This is the most lights we've ever put up here," Popham said. "This is a fair amount more than last year, probably by 15 or 20 percent."

Maurer said close to 35 companies and/or individuals contributed to the lighting effort, which has a total budget of $73,000 this year.

"The city has also put up the white-rope lighting around the tops of the buildings in downtown," he said. "That's coming back now after about a four- or five-year absence of those lights."

Contact the reporter at dcook@prescottaz.com